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Eddie Peabody
Birth name Edwin Ellsworth Peabody
Also known as Eddie Peabody
Born February 19, 1902
Origin USA
Died November 7, 1970
Genres Vaudeville showman
Occupations Entertainer and musician
Instruments Banjo, Banjoline, Mandolin, Violin
Years active 1921–1970
Labels In the 1920s many and various, 1950-1960s DOT.
Associated acts Don van Palta, Scotty Plummer, Brad Roth, Sean Moyses, Dave Marty, Buddy Wachter, Peter Mezoian, Chris Archer, Skip de Vol, Debbie Schreyer.
Website www.redhotjazz.com/peabody.html
Notable instruments
Banjo

Captain Edwin Ellsworth Peabody (February 19, 1902 - November 7, 1970) was an American musical entertainer. His career spanned five decades and he was perhaps the most famous plectrum (4 string) banjo player ever. He was also known professionally as "Little Eddie", "King of the Banjo", and "Happiness Boy".

Contents

Early career

Born in Reading, Massachusetts, Eddie taught himself to play the violin, mandolin, guitar and banjo, at a very young age. He entered the U.S. Navy in March 1916 aged fourteen after lying about his age. He served in World War I on an S-14 submarine. It was during this period that he earned the nickname "Happiness Boy." After his discharge from the Navy in 1921 he began a long career in show business, beginning with vaudeville. He visited England in the 1930s and made several recordings for the Columbia Company. Whilst there he helped to promote the banjo by visiting BMG clubs (Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar clubs) which were very active in the years up to the Second World War. When the U.S.A entered the war Eddie became a morale officer for the U.S. Navy. He already held the rank of commander and he was subsequently engaged to play shows to bring the servicemen "a touch of home". When the war finished, Eddie went about restarting his concert career. Most of the Vaudeville halls had closed down and musical tastes had changed. However, in 1948, I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, a hit from the 1920s, was resurrected by the Art Mooney Orchestra and created interest in both nostalgic music and the banjo. Eddie capitalised on this by signing to Dot Records and made over half a dozen albums for them. He took his act around supper clubs that were popular at the time, and TV made him a household name, once again. He also produced records and appeared in films. He was, and still is, regarded as the most popular banjo player of his generation.

Later accomplishments

He developed, with the Vega Banjo Company of Boston, a new type of "deep resonator" for the four-stringed banjo called the Vegavox, based on the zither banjo. The Vegavox has been produced mainly in four-stringed plectrum (22 frets) and tenor (19 frets) models; however, some five-stringed models were created and sold as special orders.

Eddie also developed a special type of electric guitar, first with the Fender Company and then with Rickenbacker, called the Banjoline. This instrument is tuned as a plectrum banjo but with the 3 and 4 string doubled in octaves, similar to the way a 12 string guitar is strung. The Banjoline is now a very rare and highly-priced collector's item, although very seldom used today in live performances.

At some point in the 1920s, a music critic nicknamed Peabody "The King of the Banjo" because of his frenetic playing style which involved fast triplets and cross-picking, made some listeners think he was playing two banjos at once. The nickname "King of the banjo" stuck for the rest of his life.

Eddie Peabody served in the U.S. Navy during WWII as a Lt. Commander in charge of the music/band department at the Great Lakes Training Station near Chicago, Illinois.

During his career Eddie played not only shows for paying concert customers, servicemen etc. but also for kings, queens, potentates, dukes, duchesses, one dictator and presidents. In 1968, President Eisenhower awarded him a distinguished "People to People" Award for Meritorious Service in both the military and show business.

Personal life

During the 1930s he married Maude Kelly, who was also his business manager at the time, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1939. In 1940 he married Ragna Kaupanger, a Norwegian-American nurse and flight attendant for United Airlines. Eddie and Ragna had two children, Eddie Jr., and George.

Eddie continued to play live until his death in 1970 at age 68, due to a brain hemorrhage he suffered while on stage at "The Lookout House" supper club in Covington, Kentucky. His wife, Ragna Peabody, died in 2002.

Bibliography

  • Lowell H. Schreyer, The Eddie Peabody Story
  • Other useful information by Eddie Peabody III, grandson of Eddie Peabody, along with the surviving members of his family.

External links

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